Niagara Gazette

Local News

July 8, 2011

Falls welcoming group gay marriage ceremony in state park on July 25

NIAGARA FALLS — In an extraordinary effort to reach out to the gay couples around the world, city officials and other tourism leaders of the Honeymoon Capital are issuing a global invitation to same-sex couples, encouraging them to wed by the world-famous waterfalls.

The Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp., along with the city of Niagara Falls, announced plans Friday that will help make Niagara Falls one of the most “gay friendly” wedding locations in the world.

A mass wedding is being planned at the brink of the falls in the state park, and businesses throughout the region are set to offer kindness and hospitality to couples who just recently received the legal right to marry in New York State. The event is expected to be one of the first official Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Transgender (LGBT) group wedding ceremonies in the state.

July 24 is exactly 30 days from the day New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Marriage Equality Act into law, and the day gay couples can begin applying for marriage licenses.

The city is going to open its clerks office on Sunday, July 24 to accommodate applications.

While working on Sunday is not that unusual for City Clerk Carol Antonucci, who typically opens her office on request from couples seeking a license on weekends or holidays, it is unusual for the clerk’s office to be open all day on a weekend, she said.

Clerk offices will be open by request in the towns of Niagara and Lewiston as well. Niagara Town Clerk Sylvia Virtuoso said that while she has only received one inquiry, she will make appointments for anyone who wants to come in that Sunday. The Town of Lewiston will do the same, and Clerk Carol Brandon already has one appointment set for that Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Unitarian Universalist Church, 639 Main St., has already reached out to the gay community. A meeting was held at the church Thursday night to welcome gay couples and inform them of all the avenues open for creating a marriage service, including the use of the church hall for receptions.

“We’re hoping to provide a community service and live up to our principles that every person is created equal,” said Betsy Diachun, a spokeswoman for the church.

The Unitarian church’s web page explains all the details of the new law, as well as how to obtain a license, and will offer the legal form as soon as New York state makes it available.

Holding arms open, figuratively speaking, to gays around the world is also expected to add a positive financial infusion to a beleaguered city.

“According to Empire State Development, New York state would garner upwards of $400 million in economic benefits over a three-year period due to the passage of the marriage equality act,” said John Percy, NTCC president. “Niagara Falls has long been considered a premier wedding and honeymoon destination throughout the world. Now, with the influx of new demographic of romance tourists, Niagara USA will once again be viewed as the Honeymoon Capital, for all.”

“The financial impact of this is limitless,” said Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti who represented the city at a four-hour meeting at NTCC on Friday to firm up details of the plans.

The mass wedding event, beginning at 10 a.m. July 25, will include local wedding officiates, cake and champagne, and flowers from Harris and Lever Florists. Officials are working to have the falls lit with rainbow colors the evenings of July 24 and 25. In addition to the ceremony, the website will feature a “Rainbow Romance” package which can be booked on its online reservation system, providing couples with a romantic getaway that includes hotel accommodations, champagne, breakfast and the option of visiting the area’s most iconic and romantic attractions, such as the Niagara Wine Trail and Maid of the Mist boat tour.

“It's so exciting,” said the councilwoman, who will be asking the city council on Monday to approve her request to be a marriage officer. “This isn't just about the gay thing. This is about people taking a second look at Niagara to celebrate their love and who knows, maybe buy a house and move here and be part of our rebirth.”

Grandinetti said that communities that welcome gay couples typically benefit from the gestures of acceptance.

“I’ve always thought of the gay community as being fearless,” she said. “They are more willing to move into a blighted neighborhood to invest their time and love.”

“It’s been proven in other communities across the nation that they are a demographic that should be welcomed,” she added.


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